Talking about election and limited atonement will always bring accusations that one may turn away a “potential” believer if we tell them that all people who will be saved have already been chosen to be saved. Usually, they will say that the minimum gospel one needs to be believe is merely that Jesus died for sin, and that if one is sincere about this belief (I’m not even sure what that means-to be sincere about a belief), then one is saved. This is not the truth. At all. Not even a little bit.
It is not true to simply say that Jesus died for sin. Without any larger context in which to explain what this statement means, this statement is literally meaningless. What does it mean for one to die for sin?
It is also not true to say that Jesus died for sin, and IF you sincerely BELIEVE that, then you CAN be saved. This is an absurd statement-it adds a condition based on sincerity of belief. Let me briefly explain.
Beliefs cannot be sincere. Belief is assent to a proposition. You either assent to a proposition or you do not. Assent is merely an agreement to a proposition. Santa is real or he is isn’t. The easter bunny is real or he is isn’t. Now, you can agree with the wrong proposition, and you can be convinced that your agreement with the wrong proposition is, in fact, the correct answer. This is what I believe people refer to when they talk about sincerity related to belief-being convinced that the proposition to which you assented is the correct proposition, even against facts that show otherwise. But being convinced that one is correct does not make a false proposition true.
So, it is not true to say that IF you are “sincere” (as defined above) about proposition A, THEN one can safely conclude proposition B. That is a non-sequitur. Arminian conditionalism does not flow from a logical starting point.
The gospel is that Jesus Christ, the eternal Holy Son of God was imputed with the sins of His people by God, He paid the debt owing to God the Father for that sin of the elect alone, and God now proves He is righteous in forgiving sinners because of what He did through Christ dying on the cross. He imputes the righteousness of Christ to the elect believer, and there is now no condemnation for that saint.
I often hear this rebuttal concerning election as if it might scare away the sheep of Christ who have not yet come to Him. That is an impossibility. Jesus tells us in John 10 that His sheep know His voice and they only follow Him, that they will not follow another. Jesus also tells us in John 6 that it is HIS mission to save all that the Father has given to Him, so the salvation of the elect is most sure thing in this universe, because Christ cannot fail-He is God. So it is NOT true that speaking about election will cause a sheep of Christ’s fold to be scared off. Quite the contrary! The discussion about election and limited atonement informs the elect believer that his salvation is ALREADY ACCOMPLISHED and SURE because of the EFFECTIVENESS of the atonement for the elect. This is the good news that the elect believer MUST hear-that the atonement of Christ actually satisfied the wrath of God against His people-the elect. That is the good news. That is the gospel. Christ died, and so we died, and now we have the living hope of resurrection to eternal life in the age to come. Limited atonement and election are an inseparable pair-one cannot be had rightly understood without the other.
I say all this to get to my point-we cannot preach a conditional gospel. People will tell you that you don’t who the elect are, so you can’t merely tell someone the good news, you tell them that IF they believe THEN that is the cause of their salvation. You tell them that the minimum they have to believe is that Jesus died for sin. You tell them that salvation is open to all, in spite of knowing that it isn’t.
This is poppycock. Yes, it is true that we don’t know who the unsaved elect are, but I say so what? That doesn’t mean I am given the authority to change the message God has given to His elect and to His non-elect. The message is the same, as in, the message of the gospel itself does not change despite whether you are elect or non-elect. Rather the implications for the individual sinner are what change in light of being elect or non-elect. We NEVER share the gospel as an INVITATION to some sort of ACTION on the part of the SINNER. We MUST NOT do this! We CANNOT do this! The gospel we share must be the gospel of unconditional grace based on the merits of Christ alone. The gospel we share must be clear that men have no chance of being saved, and that it is purely by the grace of God that God’s people shall be saved.
Brethren, do not compromise in this hour:
If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain. But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.
But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.
1 Timothy 6:3-16